Jeremy Nuttall
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Unlocking the talent of every citizen
Debates about potential and ambition in British socialist thought
in In search of social democracy

This chapter considers how British socialist and social democratic thought from the late nineteenth century to the present has treated the objective of helping people to fulfil their potential, talents and ambitions. Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century socialist thought generally retained a large measure of Enlightenment and Victorian optimism about the continuing progress of society through reason. The chapter argues that Gordon Brown's party conference speech in 2007 represents something of a landmark in British political history in the extent to which it placed the idea of encouraging people's talents and ambitions at the centre of his political vision. It also points to some ways in which an emphasis on encouraging the development of people's potential, talents and ambitions has been, and can continue to be, of substantial benefit to socialists, in terms of helping them to win elections and achieving some of their deepest objectives of equality and empowerment.

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In search of social democracy

Responses to crisis and modernisation


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